This time of year is a dangerous one for minimalists. Other holidays, only people who know you fairly well feel inclined to give you gifts. On Mother’s Day, nobody but my kids try to give me things. On my birthday, only friends and my kids feel inclined to give me gifts. And this works very well for minimalist me. My kids and family know that if they give me a non-consumable gift, that I will have to count it or re-gift it. So generally, they give me bookstore and coffee shop gift cards, which delights me no end. First, there is the delight in someone understanding you well enough to respect your wishes and not Simple Living Magazine expectations in the gift arena. And second, I really, really like books and overpriced lattes. So while it may seem uncreative (let me just interject here that I am NOT opposed to creative gifts, as long as I do not have to count them on my birthday) they are really gifts that I use and appreciate.
But Christmas! [stage directions: she throws her arm up over her brow, sighs deeply, rents her garment] Oh, Christmas!
Christmas gives license to every person who owes you a favor/wants you to owe them a favor/has some distant blood relation, i.e. you could legally get married/likes you/ likes your kid/ likes your pet/doesn’t like you, but works in the same office as you do/works in a service related industry, i.e. waste recycler, hair stylist/add your own here…Christmas gives license to all these people, in the name of goodwill, to foist on you all sorts of crap that you (that is me…but listening to other people over the age of 4, “you”) do not want or need, but feel now emotionally tied to and store away so as not to offend the gift-giver.
These are dangerous times for minimalists.
Have a plan. Fight back!
1) Tell everybody that loves you that you do not want stuff. If they feel they must “give you a gift” they can give to a charity that has meaning to the two of you, can pay your utility bill for the next year or month, give a gift of service (babysitting, car washing, house painting, you get the idea,) or a shared event (season tickets to the theatre, museum memberships, subscription to a periodical/Netflix/sports team you love.)
2) The people you do not know well enough to give the above hints to, you can easily re-gift what they give you, as they will likely not set foot in your home to see that it is not there. Several family members of my patients fall into this category. We are not allowed to accept gifts of monetary significance from the people we serve, but many gifts this time of year represent not huge dollars spent, but a socially acceptable way of expressing gratitude for the services received. It would be rude and ungrateful to foist these back into the face of the giver. Sooooo..the candy tray and boxed candies and handmade crocheted angel have been loving re-gifted to folks that deeply appreciate these items.
3) Every now and then a material gift resonates deeply in me and I find a place for it in my home. A beautiful scarf from DIL, a hand-carved bird figurine from a patient. It is one of my hundred things. It is meaningful. Those are the gifts to hang on to.